A shiver ran up Raishin’s spine.
The voice was barely above a whisper, but it was openly hostile. The enemy’s presence was- right above them!
Throwing himself forward, he spun around.
Glancing up, there was a protrusion over the door, and something black had been enshrined there.
It was a dog. It looked like a wolf with twitching pointed ears.
Komurasaki was also surprised, her eyes widening,
“The doggie, talked…?”
“Yes, I am a dog. Yes, I talk.”
The dog stared coldly down at the two of them— no, that wasn’t right. Its eyes were strangely closed. Its thick eyelids were closed, but it was staring at the spot where they were like it knew something.
“But, that’s another matter entirely. You know dogs are extremely territorial, right? Entering into my domain without permission, shouldn’t you brats at least have the courtesy to introduce yourself?”
It sounded like an old lady. Even the words she chose were old lady like.
In an instant, Raishin thought that she was similar to Sigmund. However, although Sigmund possessed intelligence as well, he at least appeared to be younger. This dog, on the other hand, seemed to have no life left in her, like an old man at death’s door.
Raishin closely observed the dog— then did a slight bow while introducing himself.
“Sorry about that. I am Akabane Raishin, and I hail from Japan.”
Komurasaki was panicking. The old dog went “Oh?”, with admiration in her voice.
“I see you don’t do things half-assed, brat. Announcing your name, even though you’re an intruder.”
“Well, you said it was the right thing to do.”
“My intelligence, as well as my ability to speak is on par with humans. I wonder, is that lucky or unlucky for you brats?”
“You being able to speak makes things much easier then. How were you able to detect our presence?”
“Such a bold brat. Not only do you have the cheek to sneak in, you’re brazenly asking for secrets on how this magic art works.”
The old dog was looking at Raishin with amusement- no, that wasn’t right. Her eyes were still closed. However, her nose was pointed in the direction of Komurasaki and Raishin, and her head was angled downwards “like she was looking at them”.
And then, she readily answered him.
“I have a special sensor built into me.”
“But Komurasaki’s hidden form is flawless. You shouldn’t be able to see our shadows, or hear us, or sense anything about us at all.”
“A passive sensor might be fooled, but my sensor is an active one.”
Raishin tilted his head in puzzlement, but Komurasaki seemed to have understood. She nervously started to glance around their surroundings.
“It seems the little lady over there understands.”
The old dog’s fangs were bared. It looked like she was… smiling?
“Worry not, little one. The pups are all sleeping.”
“Pups? Then those dog form automata outside, are they your children?”
“Only some. The others aren’t mine. Just now you mentioned Rabi, well, I am the prototype of the Garm series which Rabi—he is my flesh and blood son by the way—belongs to.”
“… The Sonic magic circuit.”
“Oh, you’re well-informed. Yes, we have the Sonic magic circuit installed inside us. We release sound waves, and when they bounce back off things like you, we perceive the changes in the wavelength, and we are able to see the world, as well as hear it too.”
Having heard what she said thus far, something struck Raishin.
“You’re a Bandoll, aren’t you?”
“That isn’t a term you can throw about lightly. What makes you think so?”
“I don’t sense the presence of a puppeteer nearby. Even so, you’re still able to use magic arts. The way you use your eyes and ears are also a little too realistic. Furthermore, you just said Rabi was your “son”. That implies you have living parts inside you. Or am I wrong?”
“Hoho, it would appear you’re no ordinary idiot…”
Her presence changed. Now it was chilly, and with killing intent, she spoke.
“I would just have to bark once, and you’d be in deep trouble. So, what will you do now?”
Raishin started laughing.
“… What’s so funny?”
“You’re being overly dramatic. If you really wanted to do so, you’d have done it a long time ago.”
“By the way, I’ve noticed you’ve been keeping your voice down so that the other dogs won’t wake up out of consideration for us. What’s up with that?”
“… You really are a cheeky brat. But I suppose you have some wit about you as well.”
The old dog was laughing wryly. Then she spoke candidly.
“I’ve already been consigned to be disposed of. I guess that’s either lucky or unlucky, depending on who you ask. And on top of that, I’m currently imprisoned here. I have no further obligation to those people who run this place.”
“What a stupid question. Isn’t it obvious? It’s because they don’t feel the need to perform maintenance on me anymore. As it is, the cost of maintaining me-”
“Don’t screw with me!”
Komurasaki drew back, surprised and frightened by Raishin’s outburst. The old dog was also surprised. Her eyelids finally opened, and she was looking at Raishin directly.
“… Sorry. The blood just rushed to my head there.”
Shaking his head, he laughed off his outburst.
“I think I’m a little old-fashioned. I hate the current trend of always bringing in efficiency, cost, and statistics into everything. I especially hate it when people try to assign a value to living things.”
Komurasaki’s eyes were filled with passion. The old dog once again stared at Raishin.
Uneased by both their gazes, Raishin was suddenly struck by an idea.
“Say. Would you like to come along with us?”
“… What did you say?”
“I bet it’s pretty tedious being cooped up in this stuffy, small space. If you follow us, then I think you’d be able to kill off your boredom, even if it’s just for a little while. And, there’s a party that’s about to start tonight as well.”
The old dog stared long and hard at Raishin, before letting out a small laugh.
“Such an interesting little brat you are. Why did you sneak in here?”
“The truth is, I’m being targeted by this girl called Frey. She’s tried to assassinate me a few times already.”
The look on her face changed. Her teeth bared, she practically growled out her next sentence.
“What is the meaning of this? What kind of relationship do you have with that girl- or rather, why is that girl behaving that way towards you? Did you do something to her?”
“I’d also like to know the answer to that question. I heard that if I came here, I’d be able to learn something.”
“We have to get back to the academy by evening. So, if say, there was someone to guide us around the place, that’d be very helpful.”
There was a brief silence.
Then, she stood up. Her legs were a little wobbly, but it looked like life was returning to her. She was resting about two metres off the floor, but she jumped and easily landed next to them. Compared to the other dogs, she looked very strong and sturdy.
The old dog sat, and thrust her neck out towards Raishin.
Reinforced with metal, there was a sturdy looking collar around her neck. There was a bluish white light extended out from the collar- a magical chain, and it was attached to an iron post nearby. Forcibly drawing out magical energy to maintain the chain’s integrity, it was a device to rob her of her freedom.
“Can you free me from this?”
Raishin reached into the pouch on his waist and took out a file and a saw. Because they were made to be portable, they were small and hard to use. Even so, after struggling for a few minutes, the collar came undone.
Finally free, the old dog walked over to the entrance, her tail wagging slightly.
“Follow me. I will guide you through the orphanage.”
“That’d be helpful.”
“However, be warned. What you will see is a glimpse into hell on earth.”
Her gaze was testing them. A black dog with such intensity brought to mind a hell hound guarding the bowels of the underworld. Komurasaki shrank back, but Raishin just shrugged his shoulders, and chuckled cynically.
“Well, that’s not something I’d like to see… But I need to know more about Frey’s circumstances.”
“So, you want to proceed?”
“Now that’s a stupid question.”
“Fine, let’s go then. But first, use your magic art on me as well.”
“Got it. … speaking of which, we still don’t know your name.”
Of all the things to be called by, she had the same name as the river that guided people on to the underworld, Yomi, as well.
Raishin thought that her name was uncannily suitable.
Before long, they found themselves next to the hell she had spoken of.